It was another busy week in the world of marijuana reform across the United States, with a number of states proposing legislation to legalize the leaf for both medical and recreational purposes. One of the most fascinating bills to be revealed was a brief document that attempts to fully remove federal interference from states that have legalized marijuana for any reason, which drug policy experts believe could end up being a clever method for essentially getting Congress to repeal prohibition nationwide.
Read all about this and more in this week’s High Times Legislative Roundup for April 27:
Federal: Bill Filed to Force Government to Respect State Pot Laws
A bill has been introduced to Congress that would prevent the federal government from interfering with state marijuana laws. The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015 would amend the Controlled Substances Act to create immunity for people and businesses in compliance with state marijuana statutes. Policy experts say that out of all the legislation introduced to Congress so far in 2015, this simple bill has the greatest chance of winning approval.
“Unlike other bills that address only some aspects of the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws,” says the Marijuana Policy Project’s Dan Riffle, “this bill resolves the issue entirely by letting states determine their own policies. It’s the strongest federal legislation introduced to date, and it’s the bill most likely to pass in a Republican-controlled Congress. Nearly every GOP presidential contender has said marijuana policy should be a state issue, not a federal one, essentially endorsing this bill.”
Pennsylvania: Medical Marijuana Bill Advances
While lawmakers in Pennsylvania are pushing legislation to legalize a statewide medical marijuana program, there are some concerns that recent changes to the bill will leave many patients out in the cold. Senate Bill 3 received unanimous approval last week by the Senate State Government Committee and now heads to the Appropriations Committee before the full Senate can review it. The concerns, however, stem from the bill only allowing for 12 qualifying conditions and not permitting home cultivation. The amended language of this measure also restricts the consumption of marijuana – only allowing for the controversial medical marijuana nebulizers, oils, ointments and tinctures. No smoking, edibles, or vaporizers would be allowed.
Michigan: Bill Allowing Landlords to Ban Weed Advances
Last week, the Michigan House of Representatives Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would allow property owners to ban the cultivation and use of marijuana in their dwellings. Senate Bill 72, which would amend the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, would give landlords the right to refuse rentals to medical marijuana patients. This controversial measure has prompted activists to urge for the legalization of edibles and oils, since those methods of ingestion would in no way be a detriment to a land owner’s property.
Alabama: Medical Marijuana Bill Advances… But Left for Dead
Alabama has a real chance at becoming one of the next states to legalize a real medical marijuana program. Earlier last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee almost unanimously voted to approve Senate Bill 326, otherwise known as the Alabama Medical Marijuana Patient Safe Access Act. The bill is expected to reach the full Senate sometime next week for a vote. If passed, patients suffering from twenty-five qualified conditions would have access to as much as 10 ounces of cannabis per month, all depending on the severity of their ailment. And while there are provisions that would allow cultivation and distribution throughout the state, perhaps the most unique aspect of the bill is that it allows law enforcement to sell weed to dispensaries that has been seized in black market drug busts. Yet, these products would require lab testing before they could be sold.
UPDATE: On Friday, Senator Jabo Waggoner, chairman of the Rules Committee, said he would not allow this medical marijuana bill to be heard because it is “bad legislation” that Alabama doesn’t need. The measure is considered a dead issue.
Washington: Medical Marijuana Overhaul Signed By Governor
Washington Governor Jay Inslee has signed legislation intended to reconcile the state’s largely unregulated medical marijuana program – essentially merging it with the recreational market. The new law will reduce the amount of cannabis patients are allowed from 24 ounces to three ounces, as well as diminish the number of home grown plants from 15 to six. The bill has been criticized because it eliminates the need for medical marijuana dispensaries, forcing them to either shut down or merge with a recreational store. Medical marijuana patients will be subjected to the state excise tax, but will not be required to pay sales tax. The changes to the current law are set to take effect at the beginning of July 2016.
Wisconsin: Decriminalization Being Considered
Representative Mandela Barnes has submitted a proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in Wisconsin. The bill would strip away the criminal penalties associated with holding up to 25 grams of the herb and replace them with a small fine. The current punishment for this offense is up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
California: First Initiative Filed to Legalize Marijuana in 2016
It is officially Go time for marijuana activists in California. Last week, a proposal entitled the “California Craft Cannabis Initiative” was filed in hopes of legalizing recreational marijuana in 2016. Once the language is approved, supporters will have 180 days to collect the required signatures necessary, approximately 585,407, in order to earn a spot on the ballot in the November 2016 election.
Another measure, the “Compassionate and Sensible Access Act” was also filed in an attempt to strengthen the state’s long-running medical marijuana program. The proposal seeks to simply protect a physician’s right to provide recommendations for the herb, in addition to limiting the regulatory influence of state officials.
Arizona: Initiative Filed to Legalize Marijuana in 2016
With support from the Marijuana Policy Project, Arizona could be a major contender for the legalization of recreational weed in 2016. Earlier last week, the organization filed a proposal with the Arizona Secretary of State, which aims to establish a taxed and regulated pot market across the state in a manner similar to Colorado and Washington. Once the language of the initiative is approved, supporters will have until June 2016 to collect 150,642 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.
Illinois: House Approves Medical Marijuana Extension Bill
Lawmakers are working steadfast to expand Illinois’ medical marijuana pilot program. Last week, the House approved the expansion by a vote of 81 to 28, which would allow medical marijuana to run four years before it expires. Representative Lou Land, who sponsored the bill, hopes the legislation will survive the Senate and ultimately be signed by Governor Bruce Rauner. As it stands, the program is schedule to shut down at the end of 2017, which supporters worry is not enough time to explore the true benefits of medical marijuana in the state. The extension bill would provide patients with additional time to use the herb to treat various conditions from cancer to multiple sclerosis. Unfortunately, the governor opposes expanding the pilot program, but fingers are crossed that support from the House will persuade him to give the amendment some consideration.
Wyoming: Petition to Legalize Medical Marijuana in 2016
A petition was filed earlier last week to get an initiative to legalize medical marijuana on the ballot in 2016. The Wyoming chapter of NORML submitted the proposal to the Secretary of State, and must now collect 25,000 voter signatures by February to qualify for the ballot.
Colorado: Lawmakers Attempting to Get More Pot Tax Revenue for the State
A proposal was introduced last week that would put the question of increased marijuana tax revenue for the state on the November 2016 ballot. House Bill 1367 proposes that Colorado keep the $58 million collected from the state’s 15 percent excise and 10 percent sales tax on recreational weed. If this legislation passes, voters would get decided on the issue in the 2016 election. Depending on the outcome, the state would either be allowed to keep the money or be forced to refund it — $13.3 million through short-term reduction in sales tax, $19.7 million to cultivators for excise taxes paid in 2014, and $25 million through various sales and tax refunds.
Ohio: Initiative to Legalize Marijuana in 2016 Gaining Ground
ResponsibleOhio, the group working to get an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana on the ballot in 2016, has collected half the signatures needed to make it all happen. Reports indicate organizers have collected 160,000 of the required 305,000 signatures needed to earn a spot on the ballot. The group must collect the remainder by July.